Finding the right provider to support your son or daughter can be a confusing and stressful task. You want your child to be supported by someone they’re comfortable and happy with, so they can build a great working relationship. But how do you know if a particular provider can give you this? What are the right questions to ask to get the information you really want to know?
Here are some questions to get you started.
What is your prospective provider’s process?
How do they go about matching staff with the person they support? Do they recruit or choose support staff specifically to match the requirements of each person? Or do they send whoever is available?
Ask about the criteria they use when choosing a support person - do they ask what’s important to your son or daughter? For example, do they consider the age of the staff? Does your son or daughter want someone from their own peer group or would they prefer someone older? Is it important to have someone of the same sex? Are cultural considerations taken into account?
You may also want to know if the prospective provider is focused on providing a support person that ‘gets’ your son or daughter. Are they keen to connect them with someone they can relate to and build rapport with? Have they asked about your son’s or daughter’s interests so they can match them with someone that shares similar interests? Can the staff offer a relationship of influence - someone that may become a mentor for your child?
Is your prospective service provider focused on building a long term relationship?
Changing your son’s or daughter’s support person can cause upheaval. As well as asking how your prospective provider will match the right support person it is also important to find out if they will choose someone likely to stay around in the longer term.
A locally based support person, or someone with connections to your local community, is usually more likely to be around in the longer term, providing a better opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with your family.
The location of the provider’s office is not really important. Instead, ask your prospective provider if they intend to provide a support person based in or near your local community.
Does your support provider have a genuine interest in supporting young people?
Does your prospective provider have a specific interest and demonstrated expertise in supporting young people? Do they understand the particular goals and needs of young people?
For example, does the provider have experience supporting young people going through a transition - from school to work or from the family home to their own place? Do they understand the particular challenges and opportunities, and have they got the experience to support people to navigate through these testing yet exciting times? Can they provide practical support to help your child get the life they really want?
Will the support person be coming in a uniform with identifying branding?
To some people a uniformed and branded support worker can feel impersonal and a bit clinical. It can also be off putting if it feels like the support workers are interchangeable. No one wants to feel like they’re a number on someone’s job sheet.
An ordinary life and enjoying a valued place in the community, is often about just blending in (not always getting around in groups with people who are not your friends or family). If it’s important for your son or daughter to look and feel like they’re out and about with a friend or acquaintance rather than attending a functional appointment, then this is an important question to ask.
Can your prospective provider be flexible and change arrangements if something comes up?
What happens if your son or daughter can’t keep a scheduled appointment now and again? What if something urgent comes up, or maybe they’re just having a bad day and really not up for a visit?
Can your prospective provider cope with this? Or do they insist on keeping to a certain time on a certain day that can’t be changed regardless of the reason (or you’ll just miss out).
Are they on a tight, functional and inflexible service schedule that’s geared towards the provider rather than your family? Or are their support services ‘agile’ - with a certain level of adaptability to your changing needs?
The answers you get to these questions may help you understand if a provider is focused on providing individualised support, one person at a time, and is the right fit for your family.